Writing advice

Rocking the Book Blurb

It’s sort of a universal truth for authors… We can knock out  60, 80, 100 thousand awesome words of story. But when it comes down to writing our cover blurbs, generally around 150 words, we feel overwhelmed, uninspired, even intimidated. Heck, as a professional copywriter, even I struggle with writing my own blurbs!

There’s more than one reason for this, and it has nothing to do with not being able to write. The main issue with blurbbing (we’re hereby making that a word) is that it’s almost impossible for any of us to create the kind of emotional distance from our work needed to see those elements that will most appeal to the would-be reader–who’s deciding to chose our books over a million others. We know why we love our books, but why should others love them?

Here are a few tips to help you craft a killer blurb:

Use a headline, or start with a question. As a separate element from your blurb, here’s an opportunity to catch a reader’s eye. People like to answer questions. They like to see if they know things. Pose a question and chances are they’re going to want to answer it.

Grab your reader from the first line. Even if you use a headline, you still need to hit the ground running. If a reader doesn’t feel compelled to read beyond the first sentence of your blurb, there just isn’t any way she or he is going to want to read the first page of your book.

Keep sentences short and succinct. No one should ever feel like they have to read your blurb more than once to understand it. Don’t pack sentences with too many words. No matter how gorgeously constructed, if you have a sentence that’s running 3 or more lines long, break it up!

Be careful of adjectives. Yes, you want to use sexy, fancy words to decorate your blurb, but use too many and all you’ve got is fluff.

Weave in choice words from early reviews. Are you collecting review quotes from beta readers and others? Why not take some choice words and make them part of your blurb. Like this:

A hilarious, heartwarming story that will “keep you laughing
till the last delightful page!” (Publishers Weekly–LOL).

Leave off on a note that makes readers want more. Don’t give away your whole story. Don’t spoil your blurb with spoilers. Give your reader just enough to go on to want to, well, go on to reading.

Ask readers for opinions. And don’t ignore these opinions. You can also post a blurb on your author page or on your blog. Just make sure what you’re posting isn’t what just popped out of your head. If you’re going to go public for opinions, be sure others have read your blurbs first. You don’t want to turn off your readers with writing that’s too raw.

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If you feel you’re still not hitting your mark, hire a professional. You want your product to go out there looking its best. It won’t matter how amazing it looks on the inside if you can’t get potential readers to crack (or click) open your book in the first place.

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2010_09_12_3614dFRANCINE LASALA has worked as a professional copywriter for more  than 20 years, for clients including Simon and Schuster, Perseus Book Group, Broadway Books, Kensington Books, Hachette, Publishers Clearing House, plus various book clubs including the Literary Guild, Rhapsody, and Black Expressions. She is currently taking on clients for copywriting, and offers reasonable indie rates. Contact her today: francine@francinelasala.com

11 thoughts on “Rocking the Book Blurb”

  1. Alternative for the first line headline or question: use a quote from the book. I use this method, so for example:
    “I knew I was going to be betrayed this week.”
    Which was actually the opening line of my second was also the opening of my blurb.
    And it’s a relatively easy way to get you going with the rest.

    You should run a competition to re-blurb a classic, Francine. Good practice for writers (and a laugh for everyone).

  2. Great post! You were a big help with the blurb for one of my stories. I wish I had your help with my first book. I got a reality check when someone picked up bookmark and then put it right back down saying it was too long for them to read. YIKES!

  3. Howdy! I love, love, love this post. Will you be writing another one about the horrid “elevator pitch” we all have to have that boils 85,000 words down to ten?!?

    On another note, I hit the “like” button above – I see I’m now appearing as a lime green blob. Don’t know why… I thought the purple shirt and sunglasses were working just fine, but a lime green squiggley?! Where’d THAT come from?!

      1. I think the lime green blob makes me even MORE mysterious than the sunglasses. Notice – I somehow managed (not on purpose, mind you) to somehow miss out on all of the photos in NYC… Maybe I am a spy… Hhhmmm…

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